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Employee Engagement: It's Not a 'Crisis' of Happiness

Response to April 28 Forbes Article "There is No Employee 'Crisis' "

· employee engagement,mental health

“There is No Employee Engagement 'Crisis' ” according to an online Forbes article posted this weekend by contributor Rodd Wagner. Wagner's provocative view took aim at Gallup and other organizations that report the ongoing decline of employee engagement as “misleading or plain wrong.” Referring to research he co-created at BI Worldwide, Wagner offered an alternative perspective citing examples of the American working population as “happy,” with only a quarter of participants wishing for a different job.

Although Wagner could have shared more of the source data cited in his article, I likely still would not be able to support his conclusion: “The broad pattern across most employee intentions is that a majority, often an overwhelming majority, is inclined toward working hard and smart if their employers can just deliver moderately well on the reasonable expectations of a good job.... It’s not rocket science, and enough companies do these basics well enough that most employees are neither grumpy nor lazy.”

In my experience, staff who “work hard and smart” for employers who “just deliver moderately well” often do so at great personal expense. Today's understanding of mental health puts an onus on employers to be more—not lesssensitive to the impact workplace culture and communication has on staff.

It wasn’t that long ago smoking cigarettes at work was perfectly acceptable, even though it was a known health hazard that could cause cancer. Is it possible future legislation will mandate employers to look past “happiness” and quantify their ability to meet the psychological needs of employees?

The sky may not be falling, but the ground under our feet is shifting ... or at least it ought to be.

More Information on Workplace Mental Health

Mental Fitness at Work, Government of New Brunswick

"Since the immediate supervisor can have a big influence on their employees (Watson Wyatt, 2005; Conference Board of Canada, 2005), the immediate supervisor can play a key role in satisfying the Basic Psychological Needs (CAR) of the employees. Supervisors and managers have the ability to learn and adopt an approach (behaviors and manners) that will increase the satisfaction of the needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness in the workplace (Forest, Dagenais-Desmarais, CrevierBreau, Bergeron & Girouard, 2010; Baard, Deci & Ryan, 2004).

In return, when the Basic Psychological Needs of employees are met, they are committed to their work (Gagné & Koestner, 2002), experience a greater level of satisfaction at work (Richer, Blanchard & Vallerand, 2002), and have are more effective and perform better at work (Cropanzo, & Wright, 1999; Judge, Thoreseen, Bono & Patton, 2001)."

Healthy Minds @ Work, The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

"Poor mental health not only hurts the individual, it also impacts an organization's bottom line and ability to thrive. Having the support of their workplace can make a world of difference for workers with mental health issues."

The Mental Health Commission of Canada

“With most adults spending more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else, addressing issues of mental health at work is vitally important for all people in Canada. Seventy per cent of Canadian employees are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, and 14 per cent don’t think theirs is healthy or safe at all. Such workplaces can take a detrimental personal toll as well as contribute to staggering economic costs.”

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